Bookmarked Intro To APIs: What Is An API? by Kin Lane

APIs are not a specific service or tool from a company, they are just like the web, but instead of getting HTML back with each request, you get JSON, XML, and CSV – providing structured, machine-readable information that can be used by other systems and within other applications with very little assistance from a human.

In his first official post as Chief Evangelist at Postman, Kin Lane (aka API Evangelist) provides a post starting at the beginning by defining what is meant by ‘API’:

APIs are how data is exchanged, content is published, media is consumed, and algorithms are applied across the web today. APIs are how you access your social data, your photos, your accounting information, and much, much more.

Along with posts from Ben Werdmuller, Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, as well as API Evangelist’s history of APIs, these posts provide a useful introduction to the world of APIs.

Liked The Behavioral Surplus From Me Reading My RSS Feeds | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

I wanted to take a moment to understand what some of the surplus data that is generated from me just reading my RSS feeds for about an hour in my Feedly web application:

  • Subscribe To – Every time I subscribe to an RSS feed, this information is added to my profile use later.
  • How Long – How much time I put into cultivating feeds is a default part of surplus data being generated.
  • Click and Read – Everything I click on and read adds a layer of behavioral surplus to be extracted.
  • Tag and Organize – Everything I tag and organize shares my approach to taxonomy and understanding.
  • Share With Others – The tags I turn into feeds and share continue painting a picture of what matters.

When you take these behavioral data points and multiply them by a couple thousand feeds, and hundreds of thousands of individual blog posts, GitHub updates, and Tweets that I subscribe to via my Feedly, it can paint a pretty relevant, real-time portrait of what Kin Lane is thinking about.

Liked What Is An Application? | API Evangelist (API Evangelist)

My view of what an application is stems from a decade of studying the least visible, and least tangible aspect of an application, its programming interface. When talking to people about applications, the first question I ask folks is usually, “do you know what an API is”? If someone is API savvy I will move to asking, “when it comes to application programming interface (API), who or what is being programmed? Is it the platform? The application? Or, is it the end-user of the applications?” I’ve spent a decade thinking about this question, playing it over and over in my end, never quite being satisfied with what I find. Honestly, the more I scratch, the more concerned I get, and the more I’m unsure of exactly what an “application” is, and precisely who are what is actually being programmed.

Liked I Do Not Own Kin Lane | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

Audrey said something profound the other day which stuck with me. As we were talking about data and data ownership, she stated that, “I do not own me”—-pushing back on a common narrative around data ownership. Highlighting that conversations around the ownership of data are merely a dispossession vehicle for getting us to buy into concepts that you can own people. Muddying the water, and ultimately helping reducing humans to transactions. A photo taken by me or of me is not owned by me. It is me. There is no ownership of my physical or digital self. There is only me. I do not care if you’ve managed to digitally reduce a piece of me to a transaction, it is still me.

Liked The Web Will End Up Being Just Like Automobiles | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

In my mind, the web will end up being just like automobiles. Everywhere. Dominating our life. Believing we can’t live without. While also polluting, destroying our environment, health, impacting our physical lives, but yet we will keep doubling down. Everyone keeps declaring that Internet technology is inevitable and will just keep marching forward, with endless innovations just off on the horizon. Perpetually looking forward, rather than ever pausing for a moment to look at the state of things. And, like commuters isolated I our automobiles, we will never truly acknowledge just how shitty this technology has actually made our lives, and refuse to ever accept there is any other to live.

Bookmarked The Schema We Do Not See | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

I have separate but overlapping concerns when it comes to each of layers of schema in place across major tech providers. I have concerns about what is disclosed to users, as well as what is openly made available to 3rd party developers. But, I have the most concern about the portions of the schema that never see the light of day. The portions that us end-users have no idea exists, even though it is all data about us. The bits of our digital self that tech companies view as commodities, and actively use in products, and sometimes make accessible to partners, but refuse to ever tell us about, let alone give us a voice over what gets collected, and who has access to it. This is the schema that keeps me up at night. I feel like 95% of it will be harmless, and act more as an annoyance, than anything particularly troubling. However, it is the 5% of the schema that I can’t see, that I can’t correct, or that I do not have any voice over that could end up impacting my credit, my career, and have real world consequences in my physical life.

Kin Lane discusses the schema associated with data and the way that our information is often shared just beneath the surface. This is something that interests me about schools and the data inadvertently collected about students and parents.
Liked My Photos Feel Like An Emotional Trap | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

I feel like I have a lot more processing to do around the illness that digital photos introduce into my life. It isn’t just the number of photos, it is the many places where I put them. It is the performance I do with them online each day, across many web properties—mine, and other 3rd parties. It is unacceptable that I don’t take better care of digital self, curating, cleaning, organizing and being more thoughtful about the photos I produce, keep, or let disappear. It means for a healthier, saner, happier me, but it also reduces the vector for technology companies to get their hooks in me with their FREE storage, easy sharing, and other ways in which they monetize my digital self, and extract value from my daily behavioral exhaust.

Liked What Technology Ends Up Doing In Our Lives | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

There are many competing forces at play when it comes what technology that actually gets delivered, and it seems like most of us involved in the actual usage and delivery of these applications are in compliant denial regarding the wider forces at play. This was my first attempt at breaking down the reality of what technology ends up doing in our lives.

Bookmarked The Sentinelization of APIs | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

APIs are early sentinels. They are originally built as application development unit, but are quickly being given (cyber)military tasks. They lack dedicated offensive weaponry, but like a Sentinel, or maybe a Bobcat backhoe, they possess a number of potential attachments that can be weaponized pretty effectively.

Kin Lane explains how with a bit of maneuverinh that APIs have the danger of being weaponised. Whether it be notifications, location or storage, Lane argues that we do not really know the consequences for the future.
Liked What Does The Next Chapter Of Storytelling Look Like For API Evangelist? by an author (API Evangelist)

In 2019, the API pioneers like SalesForce, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twilio, SendGrid, Slack, and others are still relevant, but it feels like API storytelling is continuing it’s migration towards the enterprise. Stories of building an agile, scrappy startup using APIs isn’t as compelling as they used to be. They are being replaced by stories of existng enterprise groups become more innovative, agile, and competitive in a fast changing digital business landscape. The technology of APIs, the business of APIs, and the stories that matter around APIs have all been caught up in the tractor beam of the enterprise. In 2010, you did APIs if you were on the edge doing a startup, but by 2013 the enterprise began tuning into what is going on, by 2016 the enterprise responded with acquisitions, and by 2018 we are all selling and talking to the enterprise about APIs.

Replied to My World Changed Once I Realized The Scope Of Things In This Country (kinlane.com)

While I still scrutinize the motivations of any politician, government agency, employee, or contractor, I am much more aware that there is a lot going on that I may not be aware of. Learning so much in the last five years of working with government, is making me more confident in the fact that there is so much that I do not know, or understand, and that I need to always be much more cautious in how I form my opinions, and talk about how change in our world can happen.

Insightful as always. I have had a similar experience moving into a central roll within education. Always more complex than it would seem on the surface.
Liked Storytelling And The Technological Nothing (kinlane.com)

90% of what you are being told about AI, Blockchain, and automation right now isn’t truthful. It is only meant allocate space in your imagination, so that at the right time you can be sold something, and distracted while your data, privacy, and security can be exploited, or straight up swindled out from under you.

Liked Using Your Lack Of Trust To Take Advantage Of You (kinlane.com)

Much like the Internet’s inability to shake its military origins and use as a surveillance apparatus, I think the blockchain will never be able to shake its roots in a zero trust environment. Which requires a massive amount of faith in mathematics (not humans), and belief in the distributed nature of the web (which isn’t real).

Liked You Raised Me On A Steady Diet Of Fear Of Everything Russian, And Now You Expect Me To Think They Are Good? (kinlane.com)

For me, as an adult, I live on a new diet. I don’t fear the world around me. I know that most people are good, and work to expose those who wish to hurt us. I see the Russian propaganda machine for what it is. I see the web as a tool born of military origins, and being used to deliver misinformation. I question every fearful tale that I’m told, then venture out into the world to gather facts, learn from opposing perspectives, and push myself to learn each day. I wont stay isolated again, allowing my reality to be crafted by the fearful people around me. I’m in charge of crafting my own reality, and encouraging our children to do the same. I’m not letting their reality be dictated by people they grew up with–including me. Everyone should venture out into the world, and craft their own reality. One rooted in reality, and not just fear.

Bookmarked API Is Not Just REST (apievangelist.com)

This is one of my talks from APIDays Paris 2018. Here is the abstract: The modern API toolbox includes a variety of standards and methodologies, which centers around REST, but also includes Hypermedia, GraphQL, real time streaming, event-driven architecture , and gRPC. API design has pushed beyond just basic access to data, and also can be about querying complex data structures, providing experience rich APIs, real-time data streams with Kafka and other standards, as well as also leveraging the latest algorithms and providing access to machine learning models. The biggest mistake any company, organization, or government agency can do is limit their API toolbox to be just about REST.

I read Kin’s work to continually develop my understanding of APIs. It would seem that they are having more and more of an impact on the way we work, yet so many people (I work with) have little understanding of what they are or how they work. These annotations are a useful starting point and capture a few key definitions.


A Programmatic Interface

Application is about applying the digital resources made available via a programmatic interface.

Transport versus Influence

Looking back I wish we had spent more time thinking about how we were using the web as a transport, as well as the influence of industry and investment interests, but maybe it wasn’t possible as the web was still so new.

REST versus RPC

RESTafarians prefer that API providers properly define their approach, while many RPC providers could care less about labels, and are looking to just get the job done. Making XML and JSON RPC a very viable approach to doing APIs, something that still persists almost 20 years later.

Rest Framework

REST is a philosophy, and much like microservices, provides us with a framework to think about how we put our API toolbox to work, but isn’t something that should blind us from the other tools we have within our reach.

CSV

CSV as a data format represents an anchor for the lowest common denominator for API access. As a developer, it won’t be the data format I personally will negotiate, but as a business user, it very well could mean the difference between using an API or not.

XML

Our toolbox needs to still allow for us to provide, consume, validate, and transform XML.

API Query Language

There are trade offs with deciding to use an API query language, but in some situations it can make the development of clients much more efficient and agile, depending on who your audience is, and the resources you are looking to make available.

Webhooks

Webhooks are the 101 level of event-driven API architecture for API providers. It is where you get started trying to understand the meaningful events that are occurring via any platform.

Websub

Websub represents the many ways we can orchestrate our API implementations using a variety of content types, push and pull mechanisms, all leveraging web as the transport.

Server-Sent Events

Server-sent events (SSE) is a technology where a browser receives automatic updates from a server via a sustained HTTP connection, which has been standardized as part of HTML5 by the W3C.

WebSocket

WebSocket is a different TCP protocol from HTTP, but is designed to work over HTTP ports 80 and 443 as well as to support HTTP proxies and intermediaries, making it compatible with the HTTP protocol.

gRPC

As with other RPC approaches, gRPC is based around the idea of defining a service, specifying the methods that can be called remotely with their parameters and return types.

Kafka

Kafka has moved out of the realm of HTTP, using a binary protocol over TCP, defining all APIs as request response message pairs, using its own messaging format. Each client initiates a socket connection and then writes a sequence of request messages and reads back the corresponding response message–no handshake is required on connection or disconnection.

Headers

One thing I’ve learned over the years while building my API toolbox is the importance of headers, and they are something that have regularly been not just about HTTP headers, but the more general usage of network networks.

Mixed Message Formats

In my world, there will always be a mixed of known and unknown message formats, something that I will always work to tame, as well as be increasingly apply machine learning models to help me identify, evolve, and make sense of–standardizing things in any way I possibly can.

Bookmarked My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed. by Wil Wheaton (Medium)

So another step in our self care is to be gentle with ourselves. Depression is beating up on us already, and we don’t need to help it out. Give yourself permission to acknowledge that you’re feeling terrible (or bad, or whatever it is you are feeling), and then do a little thing, just one single thing, that you probably don’t feel like doing, and I PROMISE you it will help. Some of those things are:

  • Take a shower.
  • Eat a nutritious meal.
  • Take a walk outside (even if it’s literally to the corner and back).
  • Do something — throw a ball, play tug of war, give belly rubs — with a dog. Just about any activity with my dogs, even if it’s just a snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, helps me.
  • Do five minutes of yoga stretching.
  • Listen to a guided meditation and follow along as best as you can.

Finally, please trust me and know that this shitty, awful, overwhelming, terrible way you feel IS NOT FOREVER. It will get better. It always gets better. You are not alone in this fight, and you are OK.

In this address to the American National Alliance on Mental Illness, Wil Wheaton reflects on his experience with chronic depression. This includes accounts of living through years of anxiety until he admitted it in his thirties and did something about it. There has been a bit written about depression lately, especially with the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. Kin Lane credits Bourdain with providing him the confidence to be open about his own struggles with drugs and mental illness. I was also reminded of the suicide a few years ago of Aaron Swartz. A recent report suggested that depression is on the rise across all age groups in America. Responding to Wheaton’s post, Doug Belshaw suggests that in 2018, we need to open up about these things.
Replied to Identifying what we can control in our own lives (W. Ian O’Byrne)

When we have a problem, we know exactly what to work on. When we are stuck and have no idea where to start, we begin working on the obstacle in our path.

I find external influences an interesting topic. I am not sure how stoic I am though.

On a side note, I really enjoyed Kin Lane’s recent post on choosing to ‘seize the day’ and not be overrun by fear.

Each day I am able to seize the widest possible definition of my day that I can. Across multiple cities, states, or countries if I so choose. I do this without being shot. I do this without the financial system crumbling around me, or the government invading my home. I do this without any brown person hurting me or taking my job. I do this without dying of cancer received from being scanned at the airport. Why is it that I’m able to move around so freely? What makes it so that I can seize the day without a gun on my side, or within arms reach? It is because I’ve chosen to seize the day from the fears I’ve been programmed with in the past, and from the possible futures these fears can dream up. I’ve seized the day for me. Not for what might be. It is my day. I get to decide. I get to enjoy it to its fullest, without any concern for tomorrow.

Bookmarked My White Male Spreadsheet (kinlane.com)

Nobody ever told me there were hidden columns in the spreadsheet. Once I begun spending more time outside of my comfort zone, beyond where all spreadsheets were the same, and started looking over the shoulder of my partners spreadsheet, and other friends, I started noticing they had different columns, or entirely different spreadsheets. I had never noticed the male harassment column until I started watching my partners spreadsheet on a regular basis. I never really considered the calculations she had to make walking home from the bar after a conference, or how she would receive entirely different responses for exact same criticism about technology. I could say something and nobody would feel the need to tell me I was wrong, but if she said the same thing, 20 dudes would come out of the woodwork to let her know how out of line she was. She had a bunch of columns in her spreadsheet that I had never seen before.

This is an interesting take on perspective. We all have many data-sets and formulas that we are a part of. However, we often have little influence over them. Maybe this is best put by appropriating the words of Louis Althusser,

We are all already within a spreadsheet

Liked 68 Stops In A Comprehensive API Strategy Transit Map (apievangelist.com)

I struggle calling this a lifecycle, as most of these do not occur in any sort of linear fashion. This is why I’m resorting to using the API Transit approach, as it is something that reflects the ever-changing, but also hopefully eventually more consistent nature of delivering microservices. Ideally, every microservice passes through each of these stops in a consistent fashion, making sure that they operate in concert with a larger API platform strategy. However, I know what the reality on the ground is, and know that not all of these relevant to each organization I am talking with, requiring me to trim down and change the order in which I present these.